Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ugly circulars, be gone! The magic of micro-activism

One of the larger of the small-time annoyances associated with living in a lovely neighborhood with block after block of gorgeous limestones, brownstones, and free-standing one families is the infuriating collection of advertising circulars that are deposited on people's front stoops several times a week. These circulars are: a) ugly b) wasteful c) redundant (with a sign on every block announcing that the entire neighborhood is zoned for one family houses only you'd think someone would have figured out that there's no need for three or four dropoffs per residence).

They're also now d) illegal -- at least if you decide to do something about them. In March, city councilman Simcha Felder proposed a bill that would make it unlawful to distribute "any unsolicited printed materials" at residences that post notices saying they don't want them. Last month, the bill was passed without much fanfare; now, companies/restaurants/etc that violate the new law can be fined anywhere from $250 to $1,000.

In a neighborhood like PLG, posting written notices isn't always feasible...which doesn't mean you can't get rid of all that unwanted paper waste. Each circular has a phone number listed on it (the ones that come in the white plastic bags have the number printed on the bags themselves; the Newsday distributed ones list a customer service number). If you call that number and tell them you no longer want to receive their bundled advertisements, they won't deliver them to you anymore.

Really. I should know -- it's been three weeks since I've come home to find a packet of these things stuck into my gate. So take five minutes, make a few calls, and save yourself a whole heap of mess...and do a small bit towards lessening the city's paper waste.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The continuing saga of the old PPLG HQ

As our much more conscientious blog-mates over at Across the Park recently pointed out, a developer's plan to turn the former PPLG HQ over at 185 Ocean Ave into an eight-story apartment building has been turned least for now. The city's Department of Building's nixed every single application -- for a new building, construction, plumbing, etc. (although we'd bet that this is one of those all or nothing deals).

Poking around online turned up some more info: the submitted plans included seven residential floors, six of which would have three units; the top floor would be divided into two penthouses. The proposed structure was slated to be 80-feet tall and total 23,000 square feet, which, by my calculations, means the floors with three apartments would have about 850-sq ft units (assuming they were all slotted to be the same size), and the penthouses would be a healthy 1700 sq feet.* (I'm allowing for stairwells, etc, here). Just as interesting is the fact that the plans included a floor of commercial space, although it was hard (for me) to tell if that was meant to be for a retail business, office space, or a "community facility" -- which is what is listed on one of the applications filed with the DoB.

All this seems standard enough -- plans get turned down all the time, and there's no way to tell what caused these ones to be rejected. What's more interesting is the fact that less than a week after the city told him to stand down, the building was cited -- twice, actually -- for illegal excavation without a permit and demolition without approved plans. It goes without saying that we're not fully versed in the arcana of building in New York...but that does seem interesting.

* On one of the documents there's an indication that the structure would actually be nine stories, which would obviously change all these calculations.

Menus, get yer menus here...

I've been about as bad a blogger as one can be...but I do respond in a pinch. I know there've been calls for the old school PPLG food and drink here it is. I'll put it up in the sidebar as well. And hopefully will be back with a somewhat more active presence soon...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Times ignores its own clips in favor of cheerleading for the local real estate market

Real Estate sections in daily newspapers come perilously close to being advertorials: there's usually a series of listings masquerading as actual editorial content combined with some warm and fuzzy articles about how nice it is to live in such and such a area...all surrounded by paid listings, real estate agency ads, and the like. This is true in the Times's Real Estate section as much as anywhere else, although the Times does do a better job of putting lipstick on this pig than most.

Don't get me wrong; I like my real estate porn as much as the next guy. I'm not, however, much of a fan of disinformation, which is what you oftentimes end up getting come Sunday. I've noticed this most often in the Times's weekly "Residential Sales Around the Region" feature, a full-page blowout that lists sales from Manhattan to Connecticut and New Jersey and includes a couple of lines of info per property sold, including listing price, sale price, and time on market. This page does as much to spark interest in local properties as anything else in the paper -- imagine you're looking for a place to live only to find out that everything on the market is selling within a couple of months, and for close to asking.

Unfortunately, the information contained therein is often, how I say this? Oh yeah: completely false. Take this week's run down: there's a posted sale of 60 De Koven Court, a 100-year old Victorian in Midwood, Brooklyn, for $1.275 million. The property, according to the Times, was listed at $1.35 million and had been on the market for 13 weeks, which would mean it went on the market sometime in late April (the actual closing date is listed as being July 20) and sold for about 94% of asking.

Both of these pieces of information are wrong. For one thing, by the time it sold, the house was actually listed at $1.310 million, as the website of Mary Kay Gallagher, the property's broker, shows. What's more, that 13 weeks on the market is about 200 percent, as a quick perusal of the Times's own archives will show you: the paper featured that exact same house in its "On the Market" feature on November 12 (which, for those keeping score, is approximately 38 weeks ago) for $1.6 million* (which, for those of you still keeping track, means it only sold for about 80 percent of its initial asking price). (Quick digression: "On the Market" is shockingly advertorial-esque: the paper's list of "pros" and "cons" often is little more than an encapsulated summary of the actual listing itself and rarely includes relevant information. In the De Koven property, for example, pros include "leaded glass windows," a "back staircase," and its location on a a cul-de-sac, all of which were also listed as "special features" on the Mary Kay's site.** The Times does not mention that that cul-de-sac is the result of the house being about 100 feet away from an exposed subway line that is audible from everywhere in the house; needless to say, another missing item from the "cons" list was "The house is ridiculously overpriced." Instead, the only negative is "Midwood Park is a 30- to 40-minute subway ride to downtown Manhattan," which is pretty much the same as saying, "This house is located where we say it's located.")

Since it first went on the market -- when its owners moved out of the country -- 60 DeKoven's price has been dropped at least four times. I went to one of the Open Houses in December, when, if I remember correctly, its listed price was down to $1.395 million, having already been dropped once before. The house is truly a nice one, and plenty of people aren't going to be bothered a whit by the nearby subway. From the little I know about property values in that neighborhood, $1.3 million is also about right for a sprawling three-story with nice detail, front and back yards, and a two-car garage...and if it had been listed at $1.3 last October when it first went on the market, I'm sure it actually would have sold within a month or so. But it wasn't, and it didn't. Although that's not with the Times would have you believe.

* In fact, the house was actually on the market for at least two-and-a-half weeks before the Times's initial item, as this post in Brownstoner shows. The hoi polloi that populate the Brownstoner comments section also realized almost immediately how overpriced the property was, quickly concluding that it was actually worth about...$1.3 million.

** Another note: none of this is a knock in any way on MKG, who is, in fact, our all-time favorite broker ever. In fact, it makes us sad that she doesn't work in PLG -- every neighborhood could use a cheerleader as charismatic, energetic, and appealing as she is.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

July, we hardly knew ye

Look, it was a long month. My back hurts. My efforts to get through the summer without AC are getting stymied. Anyway, I know the quickest route to injury is to dive in and try to do everything at once, so I'm going to start out slow. To wit: there's an interesting piece posted on NY1's website about the remaining real estate bargains in the city:

“'We are seeing people migrating to places like Prospect Heights and Crown Heights; Lefferts Gardens is really hot right now; Sunset Park is getting much more popular. You can really get a lot more bang for your buck,' says McLean."

Wow, great news! And who is this McLean, you might ask? That would be Corcoran broker Tracey McLean who, for what it's worth, has listings in both Crown Heights and Prospect Heights.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Reaching out to the should be a lot easier to do from now on

Several people have posted comments about ways in which the PLG community can reach out to members of the 71st Precinct (and specifically to the family of PO Russel Timoshenko, who remains on life support at the Kings County Hospital Center). There are several community members in touch with Officer Martinos, the 71st's community liaison; as soon as there's information about a fund set up, I'll post that info.

In the meantime, everyone can do little things -- like tell cops patrolling the streets that their work is appreciated and how much their presence means to us. I've made it a habit of talking to cops whenever I see them (and almost all of the time it's not due to my being in some sort of trouble). It can seem surprising at first how much the guys on foot patrol respond to this...but on reflection it makes perfect sense. Cops are used to having people treat them as bad news; as an added bonus, during the summer they're stuck wearing multiple layers of clothing (and oftentimes bulletproof vests) in tropical heat. A little positive human interaction can go a long way.

If you do decide to chat up some of the boys in blue, you shouldn't have a hard time finding them: last night at midnight, I could 11 cops on Flatbush between Empire and Maple, which works out to approximately one cop per .002 miles. The heightened level of traffic stops, particularly in the Lincoln-Lefferts-Washington-Flatbush triangle, has also been hard to miss.

This could very well be an example of the NYPD's "Compstat on Steroids program, where 1,000 rookie officers have been teamed up with 200 vets and struck out on foot patrols in particularly sticky areas, some of which can be as small as a specific building. The sudden influx is fairly obviously a response to last Sunday's shooting; it'll be interesting to see how long it stays operative for.

Other local reports appear to show that this effort could be aimed at a significantly larger swath -- perhaps even going all the way to Grand Army Plaza. Two nights ago there was a significant drug bust down in Prospect Heights (GMAP) that has resulted in plenty of local chatter.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

PPLG and Monday morning's shootings

I know: I've been shirking my duties. (And, to all you lefferts listserve members: I feel the love. Oh yes I do.) A combination of the heat, a now failed effort to get through the summer without AC, some travel, and huge piles of backed-up work have all conspired to create a quasi perfect storm of non-blogging conditions.

But it'd be hard to continue to stake any claims to being a community blogger and not post about yesterday morning's brutal shooting of two cops at the corner of Lefferts and Rogers Avenues (GMAP) Some of the coverage has, predictably, been focused on what this means for the neighborhood/the neighborhood's identity/the local real estate scene, etc. All of those are issues worth discussing, but before we do that, let's all remember that the most important facet of this story is that two men have been shot and one of them may or may not make it. I'm sure readers have had all sorts of experiences with the local police,* some of which have been less than positive. That shouldn't keep anyone from recognizing that cops -- especially New York City cops -- have a dangerous, often thankless job that pays poorly and has crappy hours. Slogans and mottos so often ring false, but the police's duty, in a very literal sense, is to protect and serve. They perform a function (along with garbage collectors, transit workers, and teachers, among others) that lets the rest of us go about our daily lives in relative peace and comfort. The fact that two cops humping the overnight shift got ambushed at a traffic stop is something we should all stop and think about, just as we should all think about the sacrifices American troops are performing in Iraq and Afghanistan regardless of our individual feelings about the war effort. (I'm opposed to it, for what it's worth.)

As far as our neighborhood goes, one of the things Monday's shootings has done is highlight the inchoate nature of PLG itself. Traditionally, PLG is thought to stretch from New York to Ocean Avenues and from Empire Blvd to Clarkson Ave. Lefferts Manor is a significantly smaller rectangle within that (from Lincoln Rd to Fenimore St and from Rogers Ave to Flatbush); the boundaries of the historic district, meanwhile, looks like they were drawn by a drunken city planner. (Suffice to say that if the shooting took place on either of the northern corners of the Lefferts-Rogers intersection it'd be within the historic district; if it was on either of the southern corners, it wouldn't be. To get a sense of just how odd that is, consider that the majority of the historic district is to the south. Here's a map of all these sundry boundaries.) This incident forced me to think about my conception of PLG, which I've long thought of as the manor with its southern border stretched down to Clarkson. It's also served as one more reminder of how stark the shift can be block to block (or even house to house) in all of New York City. The area around Chelsea's Maritime Hotel, on 16th St and 9th Ave, is a perfect example of this: the Maritime, on the east side of 9th, is run through with models and other assorted glitterati; across the street, on the west side of 9th, is an extremely large housing project. The public housing that rests between the Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill is another place where extreme gentrification sits next to a community that's been more or less ignored by the city's exploding wealth.

These boundaries are more fluid in PLG. In an odd way, this points to one of the things I like most about the neighborhood: the ways in which it is more integrated -- and not just racially -- than many other parts of the city that have witnessed an influx of new residents and a surge in million-dollar plus properties. In one of the Times stories, a local resident is quoted as saying, "It’s block by block around here. The next block over can be a different world." That's unquestionably true. (Turning on to Midwood from Flatbush often feels as if you stepped from a busy city to a pindrop-quiet suburb.) What's crucial for the entire neighborhood is to work to effect change throughout the area, and not just in the Manor (or the historic district, or whatever).

Finally, in regards to everyone favorite topic, I don't think this incident will effect real estate in any significant way. The area around the Rogers/Lefferts intersection hasn't seen the exponential increases of other parts of PLG, and the blocks that have $900,000 limestones will continue to find plenty of interest. (Think of other neighborhoods, from Fort Greene/Clinton Hill to the Lower East Side, where rising prices preceded a wholesale drop in crime.) What this means for the area on the border of PLG and Crown Heights is a whole other question, and one that's worth watching, for any number of reasons.

* One thing worth noting: whenever anyone gets pulled over, you'd do well to keep both of your hands on the steering wheel until the cop gets up to your window. Today's Times story begins, "Few actions police officers take are as routine — or as potentially deadly — as stopping a car. The hands of those in the stopped vehicle are hidden, and they can come out shooting, surprising an officer who only sought to check a minor infraction." Those aren't just words; I've spoken with policemen who've told me they get nervous every time they make a stop, whether they're in Westchester or East New York.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Prices neighborhoods where crime does, too

There's an interesting link in this morning's Brownstoner (courtesy of a New York Post story) about crime rates in Brooklyn for the first half of 2007. Murder rates in the Brooklyn North borough command area are up 34 percent, with a chunk of that coming in places like Bushwick; even in the tonier areas of BN (i.e. Brooklyn Heights), robbery, assault, and grand larceny have spiked. Brooklyn South, which includes PLG, has seen an overall decline.

Interestingly, Brooklyn North features many of the neighborhoods -- Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Bed Stuy -- that have had a certain amount of frenzied real estate interest as of late. And while Brooklyn South has it's surging neighborhoods (Windsor Terrace, Ditmas Park, Sunset Park), PLG remains, even with the recent spate of activity, priced relatively below almost all of the other classic brownstone areas. (Judging from what's come on the market over the past several weeks -- check out the first three of Brown Harris's local listings, which you can do by clicking on the Prospect-Lefferts link -- that might not be true for long.) If anything, this reinforces my theory that services and acquaintances drive real estate in NYC as much as anything...including location. PLG, by dint of the one-family zoning in the historic district, curtails the waves of new denizens other neighborhoods have experienced, which therefore limits the overall demand for services. (Families, after all, are not going to be hitting the town as often as, say, single thirtysomethings.)

All of this could be changing; at least the development rumors seem to be pointing in that direction. And a half-year's worth of data is just that: a half-year's worth of data. But it is interesting.

(An aside: this was pretty much the only precinct map I could find. There must be better ones than that. Anyone have any idea where they'd be?)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

27 Lincoln Road: No active permits...yet

In response to Gary's question on the previous post...according to the city's Department of Buildings, it appears that 27 Lincoln Rd. does not have any active building permits on file. The lot, which also includes 35 Lincoln Rd., also doesn't have a C of O; at the moment, it's zoned for a 2-story business/office. (Of course, there's enough pro-development sentiment that that wouldn't likely present a problem.) This doesn't necessarily mean anything one way or the other: a sale might not have gone through yet; the phantom developer could be waiting to finish up with the asbestos removal; the permits could still be working there way through the pipeline. But it is worth noting...

(In other development news: it looks like the former PPLG HQ doesn't have any active permits out either...)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This should be interested: seven-story condo to go up on Lincoln...maybe?

According to what would qualify as unconfirmed rumor out there in the, um, straight journalism world, a seven-story luxury condo is going up next to the Lincoln Rd. entrance to the B/Q. (That's the space where a storefront is currently being gutted/going through asbestos abatement.) This, according to someone who read something on the PLG Listserve, where someone said she'd talked to one of the workers at the site.

The beauty of this rumor is, like all good rumors, it makes a certain amount of sense. After several years of whispers of imminent development, a bunch of actual projects are actually in the works. There's also talk of other action -- like, for instance, at the homestand of the former, fearless PPLG leader, which was bought (by a developer, natch) for about a 30% above asking.

Of course, that rumor that everyone in the final scene of the Sopranos had been featured in previous episodes made sense, too...and that wasn't true. There also the fact that a workman may or may not be the best source. But if this is true, it certainly augers for big changes. Anyone investing that kind of scrap is going to look for a major retail presence to anchor the ground floor. And I'll bet dollars to donuts that that would bring a whole lot more action...

Friday, June 8, 2007

Upcoming events at the Inkwell Cafe

One of the joys of New York is the many opportunities to see and experience great culture for less than the price of a movie ticket. That's certainly true at the Inkwell Cafe, located at 408 Rogers Ave, between Lefferts and Sterling. (The Inkwell, for those of you who don't know, is possibly the country's only jazz and comedy club. Thankfully for all concerned, those two performing arts haven't been combined...yet.) The Inkwell has been nothing if not active in the PLG Arts Scene, and one of its driving interests is bringing more opportunities to PLG.

There are some upcoming dates, all of which benefit PLG Arts. They are...

Tuesday, June 12, 7:30-10:30
The Steve Bernstein Group (Note: not Steven Bernstein the trumpeter, Sex Mob member and former Lounge Lizard.)
Steve Bernstein - g, Mathias Schaefer - b, Dan Walsh - d

Tuesday, July 10, 7:30-10:30
The George Mel Group

Visit the PLG Arts Site or email for more info...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Transparency (and equal access in, blogosphere?)

The discussion which began two weeks ago and continued last week over PLUS's application for a community redevelopment grant and the issues brought up therein continues, and we wanted to make sure we drew attention to the thoughtful post PLUS president and executive director Mark Dicus made in the comments section. Anyone interested in PLUS or the PLG community would be well served to read it.

All of this discussion highlights one of the things that's so great about PLG, namely the intense connection people feel towards the neighborhood and the dedication people show to improving it. We here at PPLG are huge proponents of getting involved on any level -- in your community, on a municipal level, on a national level, on an international level -- and it's extremely rare in NYC to see so many neighbors who feel so passionately about where they live. (An extraneous and tangential plug: all Brooklynites would be well-served by checking out -- and supporting -- 826NYC, an after-school tutoring program locating in the back of a superhero supply store. 826 is located at 327 Fifth Ave -- yes, the other side of the park -- but still, it's one of the most necessary and most wonderful organizations out there. Feel free to drop by, or to email if you're interested in more info. OK, tangent -- and for that matter, post -- over.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It's back: the PPLG annual housetour slideshow

Carrying on a great PPLG tradition, we present to you...the 2007 Prospect-Lefferts Garden Housetour Slideshow. It's set up as a Flickr slideshow; leave comments here so everyone can read them. The absolutely gorgeous pics were taken by a fellow PLG resident Tim Sutherland, who deserves mucho kudos for getting these posted so quickly.

WEDNESDAY MORNING UPDATE: (The inimitable) Bob Marvin has his pics up as well, also handily assembled as a slideshow. Along with today's Brownstoner link, hopefully we'll get some folks talking about what they liked, what they thought, and what they'd wished they'd seen...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Voyeuristic thrills at $20 a pop

The gods smiled on PLG yesterday: with a forecast of three days of rain set to begin around midday, the weather stayed dry (if overcast) until well after three, allowing most people to get through this year's house tour sans raingear. (It's a good thing, too: I would not have wanted to have been one of the homeowners who opened up their abode only to fret about mud being tracked across my meticulously maintained floors.) PPLG dragged along Mrs. PPLG, his parents, and his grandmother, and mom's frequent pronouncements of "fabulous" were pretty much on the mark. (The troupe did not make it down to the Parkside and Clarkson houses, so any reports are much appreciated.)

Several people volunteered for the job of unofficial PPLG photographer; one of those backed out (although not, unfortunately, until two hours after the tour had started, which didn't do a whole lot of good) but hopefully we'll get some electronic files soon...and, as always, the inimitable Bob Marvin will have B&W shots we should be able to post in the next several days. In the meantime, here are some of our personal highlights...

The ultra-modern 176 Lincoln Road and the lovingly restored (and recreated) 72 Midwood Street provided a very stark contrast in what direction you can go in with a house that was born with an abundance of hand-carved wood detail. 176 was more or less gutted thirty or so years ago; now the house features an open, lofty feel that wouldn't be out of place in, say, On Prospect Park. Our favorite feature: the master bathroom, with a deliciously indulgent tub. It's filled from a water spout in the ceiling. 72 Midwood, on the other hand, has been being worked on for thirty years, and it's as true to its era as is possible, from the rococo Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper (maybe it's our baseball loyalties speaking here, but it looked like the company's Fenway line; the William Morris "Vine" line was also in full effect), antique furnishings, and Victorian wall hangings. Without seeing the interior, there's no real way to do the house justice; suffice to say that the tour booklet write up included the following words: gesso, lincrusta, etagere, tournaphone, anaglypta dado gesso (a sculpture plaster) lincrusta (plastic) etagere, and tournaphone.

One of our favorite stops was 210 Midwood: it was the first time we'd seen one of the neighborhoods English basements truly converted into another fully functioning livable floor. Remarkably, on a day that was overcast, the space didn't feel either dark or artificially lit, an effect which we assume was achieved by the copious (and smallish) overhead lights installed throughout the exposed wood beams. The other intriguing alteration was the kitchen/dining room swap at 166 Rutland, which originally featured a traditional grand dining room leading to a half-width kitchen built into an original extension. This won't work in every house -- the entrance to the kitchen at 166 is in line with the walk-throughs that connect the two front parlors with the original dining room -- but for those that can do it (and have the time and money), it seemed like an ingenuous way to address the fact that today's inhabitants are will likely spend more time in the kitchen and less time seated around a formal table. 166 Rutland also had our favorite garden, a Zen-ish, pebbled affair.

As always, other reports/impressions/digressions are welcome. And hopefully we'll have some pictures up soon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New bar at the old Handyman? (This week's TILT SIP ProLeGs)

Charles just posted an intriguing comment in last week's post about the PLG commute (and how it compares to Williamsburg). I didn't want it to get lost in the shuffle, so here it is, in all its glory:

"There is a notice of a liquor license application on the gated storefront of what used to be The Handyman bar on Flatbush between Hawthorne and Winthrop." (The Handyman was at 673 Flatbush.) Any word/rumors/speculation about what's going on here? And while we're at it, let's fire up this week's TILT SIP ProLeGs -- or Things I'd Like to See in Planet PLG. My latest fantasy: some sort of performing arts space. Yes, this was prompted by this morning's Times story about Williamsburg's Galapagos moving to Dumbo. I think the Times overstated the effect Galapagos had on Williamsburg -- the hipster revival was already off and running (and you could argue this as a chicken/egg thing, too) -- and I think they're overestimating the effect it'll have on Dumbo. That said, there's nothing like a destination, whether it's a top-notch restaurant, an intriguing gallery, a new performing arts space, to help introduce a neighborhood to the outside world.

Being paid for community development and the makeup of PLUS: a follow up

Last Thursday, I posted some details of the Prospect-Lefferts application for a city grant and what that would mean for staff funding. I'd urge everyone to check it out -- not to read the post itself, but to read the spirited responses left in the comments section.

One clarification: in raising the question of what appears to be a $50,000 annual payment to a salaried executive director (a post which current Prospect-Lefferts United (PLUS) for Services Mark Dicus nominated himself) I wasn't trying to pass any sort of judgment...I was just raising the question. I'm one of those 'sunlight is the best disinfectant' folks, and I'm hard-pressed to think of an example where more transparency in any kind of public or civic organization is a bad thing. Maybe $50,000 a year is way too little money; I really don't know. But it can't hurt to talk about it.

What does bother me is what feels like an attitude of secrecy within PLUS. There is currently no way for community members to communicate regularly with members of PLUS. I've received several reports from people who've tried to get information from current members -- in order to discuss various suggestions and to learn more about the application for the city grant -- and were told that was not information meant for the hoi polloi. And it seems as if there's still no information regarding what happened at last week's board meeting. (As it is, the only reason anyone outside of PLUS even knows about the application for city funds is because of an email snafu whereby Mark sent out what was meant to be an email to board members to the entire PLG Yahoo board.) I'm well aware of all the good work PLUS has done, just as I'm well aware of its passionate commitment to PLG. I'm also of the mind that if a group wants to speak for the community -- and get paid by the city for doing so -- we'd all be better off if more information was made available and more participation was encouraged.

That's my two cents. Anyone else want to weigh in?

Wanted: one good photographer

One of the best and most beloved features of the original PPLG was a wonderful photo slideshow of the annual PLG house tour. As you undoubtedly know, this year's house tour (the 37th) is on Sunday from noon to five pm. (Check out details and buy advance tickets here.) Unfortunately, I'm no good with a camera...but I'd very much like to carry on in PLG's fine tradition. Anyone out there willing to volunteer for a one-day photo gig should email me at Thanks.

Nothing? Did everyone starve last night?

It's been more than 12 hours since the cut-off for pick up of last night's CSA bounty...and I've received nary a dispatch on people's culinary delights. No rhubarb pie reports? No spinach and broccoli feasts? I'm happy to report that Mrs. PPLG and I enjoyed an orecchiette with kale, pancetta, and oregano, along with a mixed-greens salad. Even though I try, as a rule, to avoid all vegetables, even I have to admit this was delicious...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Today: first day of the CSA!

Today's the first day of deliveries for the PLG CSA. Reports are the first week's bounty will be on the sparse side, and will include lots of greens -- kale, lettuce, boc choi, chinese cabbage, etc. -- but the deliveries will be getting bigger as we get further into growing street. We expect a full report on the healthyliciousness of the Woodbridge Farm's veggie delights before the night is done...

PLG celebrates Memorial Day weekend...with a stabbing?

It was an absolutely glorious weekend here in PLG: the wonders of Prospect Park were in full bloom, the birds seem to be luxuriating along with everyone else, and the smell of over-grilled burgers filled the air. It was a wonderful time to celebrate the beginning of summer by giving thanks, sharing time with our families, and remembering the sacrifices of the men and women overseas.

For some residents, it was also apparently a great time for a stabbing: at approximately 3:10 on Saturday morning, "a group of men surrounded a 30-year-old man and stabbed him several times" outside of 105 Winthrop St. (between Bedford and Flatbush), according to this Times article detailing a series of six attacks over the weekend.

The stabbing occurred about 40 minutes after a drive-by shooting in Crown Heights (that victim is in critical condition) and a fatal drive-by outside of Bed-Stuy's Risley Dent Towers. Fatal violence can, of course, occur anywhere -- we only need the West Village shooting spree in March to remind us of that -- although the Bed-Stuy shooting was likely, according to witnesses (according to the Times) connected to a local gang.

Did anyone happen to hear of/see anything related to the Winthrop St. stabbing? Or have any other news?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Revitalizing our community: how much should we be paid?

Last night was a PLUS (Prospect-Lefferts United for Service) board meeting. (It didn't seem like there was a huge amount of advance warning about the time or location, but maybe we're wrong on that count.) The meeting, according to an email sent around yesterday at 1:45 pm, was meant to discuss Prospect-Lefferts' application for an Avenue NYC grant from the city's department of small business services. (Here's the city's SBS website; PLUS doesn't appear to have a site that outlines its work or mission.) Communities that receive the grants are estimated to get around $167,000 over the next four years, although funding will ultimately be decided according to "successful completion of the preceding year's activities."

In the first year of funding, the lion's share of that money -- $50,000 out of a total of $66,000 -- is designated towards "personnel and fringe" expenses. That certainly ain't chump change. In yesterday's email, current board president and A&H broker Mark Dicus nominated himself to serve as PLUS's official, salaried executive director. PLUS has certainly been active in the three years since it formed. Any thoughts on this kind of funding for personnel? Reports from last night's board meeting? Feelings about PLUS's work with other community groups? Opinions about the best way to spend a city grant? Info from K-Dog or Enduro owners on what it was, exactly, that brought them to the area? Thoughts about having a city-funded local group given the authority to speak (and spend) in the name of the community as a whole?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Straphangers, rejoice: more reasons to love PLG

On Saturday afternoon, I found myself in Williamsburg, which is a rarity these days; most of the time, I leave that city within a borough feeling vaguely like I'm a day late and a dollar short on the latest fashions.

I know it's no secret that W'burg is being built out like there's no tomorrow, but it didn't hit home just how insane the boom was until I actually wandered around. I lived up there back in 1999 -- on N. 3rd between Berry and Wythe -- in one of those absolutely lovely old factories that'd been converted into (illegal) lofts. We had jaw-dropping views of Manhattan; from the roof of the building it almost seemed as if you were looking at a postcard.

Said building is, needless to say, gone, and there's a concrete monstrosity going up in its place. I lost count of the just opened (or about to be opened) developments. I was always horrible at guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar, but it easily looked to me as if the neighborhood's population could double in the next couple of years. As I was heading home, Mrs. PPLG and I thought about the hellishness that is the L. Seven long years ago, I'd often have to wait for a whole bunch of trains during my morning commute. Admittedly I'm a bit of a sweater, but I wasn't the only one who found the long wait in those underventilated tunnels to be some modern form of torture. I can't even imagine what a commute on the L is like now. And I really can't imagine what it's going to be like in the years to come.

Apparently, the city can read my thoughts: earlier this week, there was an announcement concerning improvements to the L that should ease the strain on the system. That's the good news...the bad news is that said improvements won't go into effect for another three years. And that's if everything happens on time.

Now, I am, obviously, a PLG cheerleader...but all of this highlights yet another benefit of our fair neighborhood. Way back in the mid-1990s, I lived on the F-train, and it sucked back then. As anyone living in Carroll Gardens, or Cobble Hill, or Park Slope (at least from, let's say, 6th St and points south), South Slope, Windsor Terrace, or Sunset Park can tell you, things haven't improved any. The B/Q line has two very distinct advantages: they're express, they're more frequent, they're marginally less crowded, and unlike the orphaned F and L lines, the B/Q connects with virtually every other line in the city at Atlantic Ave.

To me, those are big-time quality of life issues. So is having more space for less money. So is being close to the park. And so is not feeling like I flunked the too-cool-for-school test by not continuing to wear my multiple earrings now that I'm on the wrong side of thirty...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Get your condos here! And...your yoga?

The weekend's almost here, which means this weekend's open houses are almost upon us, which's real estate time, folks! Today brings another glowing(ish) PLG feature, this one in the Post. The story focuses on the recent condo development, all of which highlight one of the main attractions of the neighborhood: the prices, which remain less than half as much as those directly across the park in the Slope. There's the 2233 Caton Ave development, a six-story, 15-unit, elevator building; the condos feature oak floors, balconies, and access to the buildings roof deck. It sounds like these are mainly 2-brs, with prices ranging from $400,000 to $525,000 for between 800 and 1,000 sq-feet of new development goodness. (Twenty percent of the units are in contract; closings will begin later this summer.) There's also discussion of the Rogers/Lefferts Aves building; 850-sq feet 2-br units there are priced between $350,000 and $400,000.

Finally, story also quotes Prospect Lefferts United for Services' (PLUS) and A&H's Mark Dicus, who says there are plans to bring a wine shop, a lady-folk gym, and a yoga studio to the area. (Lord knows there's enough vacant retail space.) If those plans do pan out, I'd expect a big change here: the Ditmas exodus went from a trickle to a landslide once The Farm on Adderley, a high-end wine shop, a gorgeous furniture store, etc., joined the already-existing food co-op...

Lord knows there have been stories touting PLG as the next big thing for years (check out this Times story from 2004), but this really is one of the last remaining neighborhoods were single-family homes are available for a million bucks, and it's the only one within spitting distance from the Park (and on an express train). As for 2-brs in new construction buildings with nice appliances for under $500,000...well, try finding that anyplace else from Prospect Park South and points north (or west). The summer buying season should tell us a lot about what's to come. With prices at or above their 2006 highs, people hoping to wait out the boom are likely to wade back in before there's another double-digit increase in housing prices. And for people looking for some of the last bargains in the area...well, we're it.

PLG: Now, with less nausea-inducing cuteness

Yet another reasonn to love PLG: it's not even showing up on Gawker's recent map of Brooklyn's Historic Preciousness District. The top offenders are the usual suspects: Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens, and Cobble Hill. One interesting omission is the Heights; we assume that's because it's more snooty than precious. And while Fort Greene and Clinton Hill aren't listed yet, that's only a matter of time: with Adam "MCA" Yauch purportedly considering a move to Washington St, it won't be long before the local tots are wearing vintage superhero t's to their baby yoga classes.

Oh, one more thing: there's still less of a frenzy here than there is in places like, say, Bed-Stuy...home to the filthiest streets in the city. For our money, the PLG historic district has some of the cleanest streets...unless, that is, you want to move to Staten Island.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

K-Dog: Now with milkshakes. (And ice cream.)

OK, not now, per se, but soon: the recent renovations at K-Dog & Dune buggy -- PLG's one, true draw-'em-in culinary attraction -- are in preparation for an ice cream and milkshake counter in the back. (Said counter is currently closed over.) Oh, and if you were wondering: it'll be Ciao Bella ice cream. Just in time for bathing suit season...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Sunday's Times celebrates PLG (And: the meaning of racial diversity)

The Real Estate section of tomorrow's Times features a wonderful article on writer Darcy Steinke and her 120-year-old wood-frame Victorian located in the heart of PLG. Steinke got in ahead of the curve -- in 2002, she paid (deep breath) $240,000 for her 1,800-sq ft Hawthorne St. home. Granted, it was a mess, but even a significant fixer-upper anywhere in the historic district would cost upwards of $500,000 today.

Steinke describes the best of PLG, and she does so quite truthfully. On her first visit to the neighborhood, she says she "felt a little nervous about the clusters of young men hanging out on some of the street corners," but also realized she loved the warmth of the residents, the area's racial diversity, and PLG's location so close to the Prospect Park.

The racial diversity is one of our favorite things about the neighborhood, too. The mandated single-family residences in the Manor gives PLG a sort of stability that's unique in the city's (and the borough's) gentrifying neighborhoods, where you often find a kind of reverse white-flight: hipsters move in; longtime, predominantly minority residents move out. Not so here. On our block, we have more diversity within a 10-house radius than we've had anyplace else we've lived; more importantly, virtually everyone in the neighborhood gathers outside after work to talk about their days. In Park Slope (and Carroll Gardens, and Boerum Hill), diversity often seems as if it can be measured in whether you trace your musical lineage back to the Pixies or to Radiohead. I love the Pixies and Radiohead (and I love a lot of the restaurants in the Slope). But I also love the fact that my children will grow up in a neighborhood where they'll experience living next to, and interacting with, people who look differently than they do.

Steinke, incidentally, also illustrates another of our favorite things about the neighborhood: the influx of writers and artists. Steinke's latest book, Easter Everywhere, was inspired in part by her home in PLG. Her partner is a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. A Times writer and a couple of magazine journalists live within several of blocks of us. And there's a sense among all of us that this is someplace we actively want to be...even if initially it was someplace we just happened to end up in.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Please tell the Times: there're plenty of affordable rentals out here

Not surprisingly, this Times story about younguns being forced to live in tents and in office buildings is getting lots of attention; on a day with no shortage of real-world news, it's the third-most emailed article on the Times's site.

Those poor little dears: there's 29-year-old Nina Rubin, who "struggled to find halfway decent housing in New York" before moving in to the Long Island City offices of Outward Bound, where she slept on a bunk bed, surrounded by cohorts bedding down in cubicles or on tents on the roof. And Kate Harvey, who joined eight of her friends and shacked up in an office building. (The space was owned by a company that her dad happened to run.)

There are two things wrong with this story. 1. The Times didn't bother to do any actual reporting into what it would actually cost someone to rent an apartment within, say, a half-hour of Union Square, and 2. Their cherry-picked "sources" are either stupid or aren't looking for affordable housing so much as they're looking for free housing...cuz there's still plenty out there that's available for the picking.

Like (and who among you didn't see this coming) a bunch of these offerings in PLG. It's hard to tell exactly what the situation is with these two Lincoln Road apartments, both of which are listed with The Real Estate Group: the pictures on the Times are identical, but one is listed as a 2000-sq ft 2 br for $3200 and the other is a 950-sq ft 2 br for $1950. Whatever the case, these look like pretty good deals: it's a big open space, there's a roofdeck, and a washer-dryer; the bigger of the two apartments is advertised as having new hardwood floors and 14-ft ceilings.

Citi Habitats also has a couple of two bedrooms listed at $2400 and $2100; there's this 3-br on Rutland that's listed at $1,600, and perhaps most enticingly, a $1050, 1-br rent stabilized apartment on Fenimore and Rogers.

I'm sure none of these apartments are as nice as they look, but they'd have to be a helluva lot worse not to be attractive at some of these prices...especially for someone camped out in their dad's office. Eight years ago I felt blessed to find a run-down, 1-BR on Atlantic Ave between 3rd and 4th Ave for $1100. Atlantic Ave was not fun seven years ago. And my apartment was not a couple of blocks from the park.

In its effort to prove that those among us who aren't I-bankers or trust-fund babies are being squeezed out of the city, the Times writes how "the rents for one-bedroom apartments in Manhattan average $2,567 a month, and two-bedrooms average $3,854 a month. ... Because landlords typically require renters to earn 40 times their monthly rent in annual income, renters of those average apartments would need to earn at least $102,680, individually or combined, to qualify for a one-bedroom and $154,160 to afford a two-bedroom." I've never lived anyplace where a landlord insisted I make 40-times my monthly rent; I usually set aside 35-percent of my salary. If you go by my figures, someone making $35,000 could afford a one-bedroom in PLG; three friends all making $27,000 could live in one of the $2000/mo two-bedrooms.

But the real question here isn't why the Times story doesn't present the whole story; that happens all too often. The real question is...why are these apartments sitting vacant? Complaints about services, or Flatbush, don't cut it with me; for $1,000 a month in NYC, you're going to need to make sacrifices no matter where you're living. And there's nowhere else where you'd be be so close to an express train and so close to the park. So what gives?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Update: sweet, sweet meats

Ask, and ye shall receive! On Monday, I (virtualy) wondered whether folks who signed up for the local Community Supported Agriculture program would be able to place special orders for meat. (The CSA subscription covers produce. Yummy, yummy produce.) In addition to putting my query out there in the Interweb, I used some of my top-secret reporter's jujitsu...and got in touch with the good folks at Connecticut's Woodbridge Farm -- the local supplier for the PLG CSA. Here's their answer:

"Members can definitely put orders in for meat or any of our products for that matter. 72hrs notice should give me the time I need to put it together for delivery day!" Some of the specifics need to be worked out; for example, I doubt that the men and women of the Maple Street School are going to store people's meats every Tuesday, so you might need to commit to being there when Woodbridge makes their dropoff. But it's hard to see how this is anything but great news.

Fresh Direct: Is it available everywhere?

At least in the 11225 zip code, anyway...

Today's Brooklyn Record has news about Fresh Direct's expanding delivery zone. I thought it was available in all of 11225, but I'm not sure how to check. Anyone out there know the answer?

(And in response to AdrianLesher, who has taken a commanding early lead as the most charming commenter on the site: yes, I'm aware that the FD site asks you to punch in your zip code to see if it serves your area. If you check, you'll also find that after entering in 11225, you're greeted with the following message: "We need more information...Please enter your street address so that we can make sure your building is in our zone." That's why I asked if anyone knew whether delivery was available in all of our fair neighborhood.)

The things I'd like to see in Planet PLG

And I'm talking about the entire neighborhood, not the website...

The last year-plus has brought some notable additions, with the just-redone K-Dog paving the way for Enduro and now, it seems, a revamped (or at least revamping) Papa & Sons. The CSA will add a weekly supply of delicious, farm-fresh produce.

But there's a lot left that's still be desired. I, for one, would love a restaurant that's a true destination -- the kind that would bring in outsiders and show off what PLG has to offer -- rather than an acceptable alternative; as thankful as I am that Enduro is here, it's hard to pitch it as anything more than your typical, standard-fare Mexican.

I could go on, but I'd rather hear from everyone else out there. Which is why I'm launching a new feature, TILT SIP ProLeGs. (Now there's a catchy acronym.) Write in with your deepest desires, and every week or so I'll put them all together in an effort to steer the conversation in one direction or another. Our ideal world is only as small as your imagination...

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Reader mail

Before I dash off for most of the day, some answers to a couple of quick questions...

Adrian and Anneke: I need to admit that my initial reaction to your comments on the "For sale in PLG" post was to recommend that you start blogs of your own. But I'm working on practicing instead I'll use this as a way to clarify the new PPLG comments policy.

As of right now, there will be no editing of comments without explicit permission from the commenter him/ if there's something you want to say that I think might be offensive, racist, sexist, etc., I'll email you and ask you if we can amend it in a way that would work for everyone.

However, comments do need to be approved, and this will occur in as timely a manner as possible. I'm well aware of the downside here: there will be those times when I'll be away from a computer for a couple of hours and some comments might get held up in the cue; this, of course, will on occasion make it more difficult to have the kind of robust back and forth I hope I feature here. At the moment, I think the trade-off -- a troll free forum for everyone to enjoy -- is worth it, but this is a policy that'll constantly be in flux, and I welcome any and all feedback.

One response from yesterday's post on PLG's new CSA that you non comment readers might have missed: dliss, who helped set up the arrangement with Woodbridge Farm, had this to say: "We haven't really talked much about meat yet because we've been so focused on getting the vegetable deliveries up and running, but it's definitely a possibility. If enough members are interested we could probably work something out with the farm. The only problem I can think of is refrigeration, but maybe we could get an insulated cooler?"

As for Ed's question about pictures, yes, I will be making Son of PPLG as visually appealing and as visually active as the original PPLG; I've been stuck in a particularly rough patch, work and commitment wise, so have been scrambling to get some posts out in a timely manner. As for whether we'll be welcoming photos from area residents...we'd absolutely love to. (The photo on our homepage is by Brandon Williams, who has some great shots of the area.) We also would love to make PPLG a forum/clearing house for all sorts of info about the neighborhood, and we'll be brainstorming/thinking of ways to make this as much of a collaborative effort as possible. In general, we think more is more...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Now, with more beef

The just launched PLG Community Supported Agriculture has been rightly getting attention. (For those of you who somehow missed the ATP post, CSA is essentially a program whereby a local(ish) farm sells produce to a community. Members pay up front and get a weekly batch of veggies throughout the growing season. The farm gets capital before the season; the community gets super fresh food. And everyone rejoices!) This is great news for people who don't want to use Fresh Direct or trek a couple of miles for their weekly shopping, and I think there are still some spots available; at least there's no info to the contrary on the official PLG CSA website.

As it turns out, our partner farm -- southeastern Connecticut's Woodbridge Farm -- isn't a veggie only concern; they also sell meat from organically fed cows, pigs, and poultry. I'm trying to find out if CSA members can put in individual orders to be delivered for the weekly pickup...

Across the park (on the other side, that is)

For all of you writers out there that find it hard to work at home but hard to do all the work you need to get done in one of the city's no-phones-allowed writing spaces (i.e. The Writers Room (which rather pretentiously calls itself "an urban writer's colony"), the year-and-a-half old Paragraph, and King County's own Brooklyn Writers Space), there's a new kid on the block: Gowanus's Room 58, a writing space that advertises itself as being designed for journalists and other "research based writers." Translation: you're allowed to use your phone. At least in one of the Room's rooms. (Room 58 is actually a joint Brooklyn Writers Space and the Brooklyn Artists Gym, which, of course, isn't a gym at all but a kind of collective studio. Somehow, I don't imagine a gym designed solely for artists would be a huge hit.)

There was an open house on Saturday and they're a couple of more coming up, this Wednesday and next Wednesday from 11-1. I'm curious to hear from anyone who checked/is planning on checking it out...

Friday, May 4, 2007

On sale in PLG: the allure of a $799,000 house (and a $299,000 2BR)

Some interesting properties newly on the market in the hood. There's this two-story townhouse on Sterling between Rogers and Nostrand, which is a bit east of what we normally think of as Lefferts Garden but it is, indeed, part of the landmarked district.

Corcoran has the listing for $799,000; if this was located .2 miles west and .3 miles south (putting it on Maple between Bedford and Rogers), it'd be a steal. As a comparison, check out this Brown Harris property on Midwood between Bedford and Rogers; it's also a two-floor townhouse but is listed at $925,000. The Brown Harris listing does have a garden -- and judging from the photos posted online, the Corcoran house looks as if it might not -- and the B-H listing might have some more original detail, but the Sterling St. one definitely appears to be in decent shape.

There's also this 3-bedroom Tudor on Chester Court listed for $697,000. Even more than the Corcoran house, this is a property that's going to be effected by its location. Chester ain't no Beekman, but it's sketchier than just about any Manor block on the other side of Flatbush. It also butts up against the subway tracks. Still, even for what appears to be a pump-and-dump property, there's a lot to like here: jacuzzi, finished basement, two fireplaces, backyard, exposed ceiling beams, wainscotting, parquet floors; if you told your average New Yorker you could get a single-family home that was a stone's throw from Prospect Park for under three-quarters of a million bucks, they'd assume you'd just been dropped off from a 1990s time machine. (An aside - and I know I'm about the billionth person to remark on this -- but it boggles my mind that some real estate companies are so lazy (or ignorant) as to not even bother to set up a functioning website. It's the equivalent of not bothering to clean up the dog crap in your front yard before you schedule a showing.)

Speaking of stupid web strategies, here's a $299,000, 2BR listing with virtually no information contained therein. I'm pretty sure it's 306 Lincoln Rd (between Rogers and Nostrand). It's these type of properties that are going to be the most interesting over the next year. A million bucks -- which is probably a good average for townhouses in the Manor proper -- is going to be too high for a lot of younger couples/families priced out of Park Slope (or Fort Greene, or Windsor Terrace, or virtually anyplace north of Brooklyn College), especially without the possibility of rental income to offset the mortgage. But a $299,000 2BR with 10% down comes out to a monthly mortgage of $1,662...and that's less than you're gonna pay in rent in most places in the city. When I moved to New York (in the early 1990s), I was paying almost a grand to live down in the Lower East Side, and that was when junkies were literally shooting up on the street. (I actually was only paying a grand until I discovered the apartment I was living in was stabilized; from that point on I paid $350. But you get the point.)

Anyone seen any of these places? Or have any thoughts? I'd especially love to hear from apartment hunters out there...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hot or Not? Reading the tea leaves on the PLG real estate scene

There's been, to put it mildly, a lot of movement in the PLG (and environs) real estate market...and I'm not talking about those mint $1.2 million Brown Harris limestones on Midwood, either. In the past couple of weeks, two major developments -- which combined could add thousands of new local residents -- have come on the market: 123 Parkside (which is located just west of Ocean Ave) and a package of three sites down by the Club Medical, which is a bit east of PLG proper. (That link, to a Brooklyn Eagle article, is, annoyingly, pay only. For the life of me I can't understand why small papers alienate potential customers like this...but I digress.)

The three sites by Kings County Hospital, et al, make up two buildings, three vacant lots, and have 55,950 buildable square feet; they're on sale for a combined $11.8 million. At first blush, that seemed like a steal; then I realized that my predecessor got $1.2 million for his house -- located on a lot with, if I recall correctly, somewhere around 15,000 of FAR. All of which is to say I have no idea how to assess the relative costs of empty lots, especially in an area with as many variables as ours.

The Parkside property seems like much more of a sure thing -- and, I'd imagine, is going to cost a pretty penny more as well. That site has a whopping 220,000 square feet of buildable, residential FAR, and off the top of my head I can't think of any other significant and empty property adjacent to the Park. The Prospect Park improvements are only going to make this area more attractive, and the presence -- and hopefully proliferation -- of excellent restaurants like The Farm on Adderley in Ditmas (and excellent coffee shops like K-Dog in PLG) should help bring in Manhattanites who don't want to spend a million plus for a one-bedroom in Chelsea. It's hard to imagine a developer buying that site and not trying to maximize his investment by putting in high end condos, and with penthouses a couple of miles up the road going for upwards of $6 million, well, who's to say what a top-notch place could go for down there.

All of which raises a chicken/egg question: one of the main knocks -- as far as I'm concerned, the only knock -- on PLG is the lack of services. It is an issue, to be sure. But there seems to be a fair amount of vacant storefront property along Lincoln and Flatbush; will more forward-thinking/enterprising merchants take the opportunity to establish a presence when retail rents are (I'd guess) lower then they are elsewhere in Brooklyn? Or will it take an influx of new residents to get restaurants, etc., to follow?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Don't go changing to try and please me

The notion that PLG has been "next" -- the next undiscovered neighborhood, the location of the next real estate explosion, the next retail hotspot -- has been around virtually since Flatbush recovered from the dual blows of the '77 riots (which drove out many of the mom and pop stores that lined the Avenue) and the decade-long crack binge that's been on the wane since the mid-1990s (although reminders certainly survive on Beekman Place).

Even considering the years of not-quite-realized expectations (or hype, depending on your viewpoint), there seems to be more positive indicators now than there's been in, well, ever, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by the more observant Brooklyn observers out there. Brown Harris Stevens -- which, for years, has seemed like the only real estate agency that has any sense of the PLG market -- has, within the last the six months, sold three houses on Midwood between Flatbush and Bedford, the much-discussed Ocean Ave abode, and a 25-foot wide beauty on the corner of Rutland & Bedford, all for $1.2 million or above. This weekend, Corcoran is hosting an open house for another property on that first block of Midwood (a three-story landmarked brick priced at $1.2); just down the block, Brown Harris is having another showing of the two (and a half) story limestone (and former Brownstoner house of the day) at 181 Midwood for $925,000. (We haven't seen either of those; however, judging from Corcoran's seemingly poor sense of pricing in the neighborhood, it's hard to know what to expect from them.)

Still, despite the surfeit of homes on the market -- and despite the fact that PLG seems to be the only neighborhood within a mile of the park where gorgeous single families can be had for between $900,000 and $1.25 million -- there remain many people who've never even heard of PLG...and meanwhile, broken-down brownstones much further from the park (and from transportation) and in more dangerous neighborhoods regularly command prices that are 20 percent.

So what gives? One theory is services. Another is mid-market availability -- unlike virtually every other brownstone neighborhood, the century-old gems in the Lefferts landmark district can't be carved up. On the one hand, that means that a lot of original detail remains; it also means there's no rental income to offset mortgages and no floor-throughs for people to buy.

There's also the notion that PLGers like where they live, like they way they live, and don't particularly feel like cheerleading. The other evening, as five families (and their nine kids, all between two and ten) gathered on the sidewalk after work and before dinner, one of the fathers (a musician with two of the aforementioned kids), said that he often felt as if he didn't like New York...but that he loved PLG. It wasn't hard to understand what he meant. Many of the neighborhoods we've lived in -- from Williamsburg to Boerum Hill, from the Lower East Side to the West Village -- have gone from being vibrant and wonderful to being overrun and annoying...oftentimes within four or five years (less if said neighborhood is featured on the Sex and the City tour). Maybe the real reason PLG hasn't seen more wholesale change is as simple as the fact that the people who live there are happy with things the way they are...

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Dan -- also known as the father of the father of the original and much heralded Planet PLG -- has, alas, left the building (and by building I mean, of course, his lovely paradise by the park, which, lest anyone forget, prompted a crazy, 2002-esque bidding war). He's headed for points north...where they have winning baseball teams. But I digress.

Dan's (and his clan's) departure does not mean that PPLG is done for: Dan has generously agreed to let the PPLG name live on, and it will do so here, at the brand-spanking new Son of Planet PLG. We're going to leave the original Planet PLG site up for reference's sake; there are also some of the most beloved PPLG links posted here, stage right.

Over the next several days, we'll be slowly dipping our toes into the wading pool of the PLG on-line universe, so check back early and often. In the meantime, suggestions, advice, thoughts, ruminations on spring, and constructive criticism is fact, we're going to need it.